AUSTIN, Texas -

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Lawmakers have taken took the first step toward setting up a $2 billion fund to finance water projects across the state.
    
The House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday approved a plan that would take money from the state's Rainy Day Fund and create the State Water Infrastructure Fund of Texas. The aim would be to leverage bond financing for new reservoirs, pipelines, desalination plants and conservation projects.
    
The State Water Development Board says Texas needs to spend about $53 billion over the next 50 years to meet the water needs of the growing population. About half of that needs to come from the state.
    
Rep. Allan Ritter says the fund could leverage $27 billion over time, and the bipartisan committee approved it unanimously.
    
The Texas Senate is working on a similar measure and the two versions of the bill will need to be reconciled.